Carter Center program
contributes to Ethiopian surplus

Last month, Ethiopia became a food exporter for the first time, with assistance from Sasakawa-Global 2000, known as SG 2000. SG 2000 is a partnership between the Sasakawa Africa Association and The Carter Center's Global 2000 program.

On Jan. 13, Ethiopia sent its first shipment of maize to Kenya. "I had always hoped to live to see Ethiopia producing enough grain to feed its people but had never expected it to happen so soon and so fast," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said in a recent letter to President Carter. "We are all very grateful for what you have done to make our wildest dreams come true."

As recently as 1985, people in the developed world routinely saw images of men, women and children starving in Ethiopia. Today, Ethiopia's record-breaking harvest amounts to more than 11 million tons of grain. Last fall, farmers harvested a bumper crop, and the country not only became self-sufficient, but also enjoyed a grain surplus. "We estimate that we will have a surplus of between one-half million and 1 million tons of maize, roughly the equivalent of the grain shortfall we had in 1984 and 1985," Meles said.

"Ethiopia has engineered a magnificent success," Carter said. "The commitment to development by the government and the people of Ethiopia has launched a rebirth of their nation."

By instituting sweeping governmental policy changes, joining together with hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers, and collaborating with SG 2000, the prime minister and the people of Ethiopia have begun leading their country to newfound prosperity.

"In 1986, SG 2000 was formed to help small-scale farmers increase food production by improving the yield and quality of their crops," said Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, who leads the program. Since 1993, SG 2000 has operated in Ethiopia as part of the national extension service of the Ministry of Agriculture. "Together, we show farmers how to plan extension management training plots (EMTPs). The farmers cultivate these one-acre sites using high-yielding seeds, new fertilizer methods and more productive timetables for planting, weeding and harvesting," said Marco Quinones, SG 2000 country director for Ethiopia.

In 1994, a turning point occurred when Meles accompanied Carter to one of Ethiopia's EMTP sites. "We traveled in farm clothes, so as not to attract attention," Carter said. "As we talked to local farmers who were using the SG 2000 methodology, Prime Minister Meles became increasingly impressed with their very high crop yields, often three to four times that of the average yield, and with their irrepressible enthusiasm for the new farming techniques." The prime minister returned to Addis Ababa and began the Intensified Extension Campaign, which is fully backed and supported by the government at all levels. In 1996, the government sponsored 350,000 EMTPs.

Although the government's investment has paid handsomely, many challenges remain. SG 2000 also works with extension workers and farmers to improve the country's infrastructure in processing, storing and transporting maize to other countries. "It is time for us to redouble our efforts, encouraged by our achievements so far," the prime minister said.

-Michelle Riley

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